There are two major points I want to develop just to introduce the complexity presented in And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place, an episode of the television show Babylon 5, and the less important, and the more immediate, will go first.

As I have commented before, Babylon 5 was a television show, and like any television show, it was made under the need for expediency, and despite some its more rabid fans apologies, some plots and situations and characters don't always quite have as much consistency and structure as they should. I have watched the ultimate scene of this episode many times, and when Londo Mollari reveals to Lord Antono Refa that Refa's guards are actually loyal to him. I thought this was perhaps an expediency: wouldn't a treacherous master of intrigue like Refa make sure that he had loyal guards around him. However, upon watching the entire episode again, there is an earlier scene where Refa explains to a functionary that he needs troops, because he is about to launch into the intrigue that will lead to "Londo Mollari's head on a silver platter". And for a brief half-second, the functionary grimaces in disgust, before his face breaks into a smile. It is a scene that is easy to miss, yet it is in there, and it explains a great deal of what goes on later. And it makes sense that Lord Refa, an arrogant and violent figure, would have made many enemies, and would also be unaware of how many enemies he had. So once again, the show displays its care in laying out the plot and characterization beforehand.

The other important point is perhaps more conceptual. In his book Democracy Matters, Cornell West identifies three roots of American democracy, two of which are Greek rationalism and Judeo-Christian charity. The third, which is the creation of African-American culture, is "Tragicomic Hope", as evidenced by blues and other musics created by that culture. This is relevant because Babylon 5 is in some ways a commentary on Democracy, and uses the theme of hope throughout. And Babylon 5 is also, in both its presentation and themes, a tragicomedy. And this episode is one of the most tragic and the comic in the series. What I wrote under tragicomedy was written with Babylon 5 in mind, and this episode is the paragon of such. The tension in the episode is built, and then suddenly released, in an outcome that is both tragic and comic.

With this deep introduction, the episode of the plot involves Londo Mollari's attempt to assassinate Lord Refa, his one time partner and conspirator. Mollari has realized that Lord Refa is a treacherous and vicious person, even by the standards of the Centauri nobility, which is a pretty relaxed standard. Mollari therefore hatches a dense plan to entrap Lord Refa. The plan is kept from both the audience and from other characters in the show. Mollari orders his aid, the decent and gentle Vir Cotto, to inform G'Kar, the leader of the Narn resistance, that his aid, Na'toth, is in captivity. G'Kar will rush to free her, allowing Londo to capture him, and to thus gain the glory of capturing the foremost member of the resistance. Lord Refa captures Vir, psychically interrogates him, and decides to capture G'Kar himself. What he doesn't know, and what Vir Cotto also doesn't know, is that Londo and his archenemy G'Kar have already arranged a plan to betray Lord Refa.

If that last paragraph makes sense to you, you are probably already very conversant with Babylon 5. If that makes no sense whatsoever, you can understand why this was a difficult show to get into.

Meanwhile, there is also a B-Plot, where various religious leaders, including an African-American baptist gospel minister have shown up on Babylon 5. The baptist reverend has a long standing (yet friendly) rivalry with Babylon 5's resident Catholic monk, Brother Theo, that is interesting both because it is a rare comment on real-world religious rivalries in a television program, and because it probably is meant to underscore many of the much less productive rivalries shown in the series. Along with their religious mission, the leaders are also smuggling information for the resistance against the fascist regime of President Morgan Clark. This is getting pretty complicated, and that is without even mentioning that the Shadow War is about to reach its climax...although, the Shadow War, as such, is noticeably absent from the main action.

So just as the Reverend William Dexter starts his sermon, preaching about love and tolerance, we cut to Narn, where a mocking Refa surrounds G'Kar. This is the moment that the tragedy has been building to: where Londo will both doom G'Kar, morally compromise Vir, and also hand Refa a victory that will undermine his own position. And then, the moment of comic relief: G'Kar pulls out a hologram of Londo. A hologram that very carefully, slowly and with sardonic courtesy, explains to Refa, just how he has been out thought, why he is an evil person, and just how he is going to die. The speech is masterful, especially for a television program: part of it might be to recap to the audience what is going on, but I believe part of it is that Londo Mollari has the sense of justice to present the accused with a list of his crimes. And just as Lord Refa is left to the horde of very angry Narns, we cut back to Babylon 5, and the singing of the gospel music. Then follows perhaps the best, and most confusing scene in Babylon 5: the brutal killing of Lord Refa to the strains of a musically upbeat, but lyrically fearful song about God's judgment.

This is comic because of the dissonance between how the music makes us feel and what we are seeing. It is ironic because of the seeming disconnect between the sermon and the music, and between the music and the scene of Lord Refa's assassination. It is even slapstick, we we see the mocking, arrogant Lord Refa run for his life in slow motion. There are further ironies within ironies in the scene: the Minbari attending the religious meeting are shown as uncomfortable with the emotional tone of the service, as well as the vengeful nature of the lyrics. And yet these same Minbari, despite their seemingly more civil culture and religion, have the capacity for violence and vengeance. And the scene is overwhelmingly comedic because Londo Mollari, after becoming an increasingly evil character, does something that could be considered moral. And he does it in a grand fashion. Our tension is released.

And yet it is also tragic. It is tragic because Londo participated in genocide, even if unwillingly. It is tragic because, as the song suggests, people who are given the chance at redemption refuse it. It is tragic because Londo, despite doing something that is more moral than the alternatives, betrays Vir, and his means of moral redemption involve viciously, brutally killing someone who was once his friend. And it is tragic because despite being an evil person, we might have some mixed sympathy for Lord Refa as he realizes just what is happening.

If all of that seems to be quite a bit to write about a single episode of a television show from a dozen years ago...while writing this, there were many intricacies and subplots and other connections that I wished to mention, but skipped to save on space. Truly, the intricacies presented by Babylon 5 were many, but the message of the show stayed direct throughout.